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Sharing my Husband

By Heather Oman

I totally would have bought this mug in high school.
My sister has known my husband longer than I have. They went to the same high school, and she was friends with his sister long before he and I ever met.

For those who don’t know the story, Nathan and I met in a debate round. I’m pretty sure no other love story has such an auspiciously geeky beginning. He and I were power debaters, both dedicated to our high school teams, and we were both used to winning.

We were paired in a Lincoln Douglas debate round, which, for the less hard core among us, means that you are debating a pre-selected topic one-on-one. One person gets assigned to present a case in favor of the topic, and the other person is supposed to negate the case. Most people have both an affirmative and negative case prepped, even though technically, a negative case isn’t required. On the negative side, all you have to do is prove the other person is wrong.

I was assigned the affirmative side, Nate the negative. In a word, he proved me wrong.

We both admit being taken with each other after that debate. I still remember loving it, relating to this person in a way I had never related to anybody before. And usually after a round, when it is clear who the winner is, the loser tries to get out of the room fast. Nathan and I walked out of the room together, still talking.

I told my sister all about it, and the next day at school, she encouraged Nate to ask me out. He did, and we tentatively started dating as our senior year in high school ended. Six years later, we were married. Yeah, there was some other stuff in there, other people, lots of angst across a couple of oceans, but in the end, we got there. Eventually.

But in the beginning of this relationship, I talked to my sister about him a lot. She described the person she knew, and I didn’t recognize who she was talking about. I thought, “That’s not what he’s like. You don’t really know him at all.” Nate has often said the reason that he fell in love with me is because I saw him, REALLY saw him, that I have always known who he was, and yet I stuck around anyway. Amazing.

Nathan is now in the bishopric in our ward. He’s been serving in that capacity for over 2 years. It is the first time in our marriage that he’s shouldered such a calling, and I can’t say it’s my favorite. Still, the most amazing thing about it is how many people tell me how much they enjoy getting to know my husband, and they say it as if they are surprised he’s a good guy. I know they mean it as a compliment, and I’m glad that they like him, but I wonder, what did you see before?

He spent the first part of the summer at girls’ camp. One young woman told me that she liked seeing the “wild” side of my husband, that she always thought he was so proper, and maybe a little stuck up. Nate doesn’t exactly live on the edge, but he’s not so proper that he’s above farting in the bed and claiming it’s a sign of love.

So it’s a new thing that I am sharing my husband with the ward, that people are getting to know him in this way. And as a member of the bishopric, he is presented to people in a new and different position. We snorted and laughed together when he had to interview me for my temple recommend, but it occurred to me that when he is in the room with another person reading the same questions, they’re probably not laughing. Maybe people have asked him for counsel, maybe people have confided fears to him, maybe people have looked to him for help, or maybe people have kept fears to themselves because they wondered if Nate was too proper to understand. And while he is as tightlipped as he should be about these matters, I know he has had to sit on councils and wrestle with the spiritual decisions about how to help those who are seeking repentance.

Sharing my husband means that for the first time since we met, there are parts of him that I can’t see.

And I’m not quite sure what to do with that.

How do you feel when you see your husband in a different light, or when others seem him differently than you do? How do you handle sharing different members of your family, and seeing them in different positions than you’re used to? How does it make you feel about yourself, your role in the family, and does it change your relationships?

For my part, I’m glad that my husband is serving the Lord, and most of the time I feel pretty okay with it. But I’ll be glad when we can attend church as a family again. There are days when everybody is pulling at my guy, and it’s all I can do to say, “STOP! MINE!” What can I say, wrestling kids in a pew alone brings out my inner 2 year old.

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

9 thoughts on “Sharing my Husband”

  1. From the title I thought this post was going to be about polygamy…

    Six years? That's like two lifetimes in Mormon romantic time…

    When I got my first law job in Chicago and we moved up here, every week at church we sat behind a woman and her four kids. I think it was about three months before I realized that she wasn't a widow or divorcee, but was married to a bishopric counselor…

  2. I met my husband through speech & debate as well. It's a long and amusing tale. People joked that we would be breeding super debaters.

  3. When we moved into our ward seven years ago, Jim was known as the guy in a rock band. From there he went from Primary teacher to ward clerk to Elder's quorum president, to Stake high council to Stake clerk. I find it funny that so many people who have moved into the ward in the last couple of years have only seen "righteous Jim" and would be surprised if they knew his more interesting side. Sometimes I feel an almost Tourette's-like urge to blurt out, "We used to be cool!"

  4. Bill's got a lot of leadership and organizational ability and that's who I've lived with, so in that light, I just shrug it off if anybody says anything about that. Once, though, a woman said "he is the kindest, most compassionate man." I tried not to look shocked. Or when they tell me how lucky I am that he helps around the house, I offer his services. I don't mind sharing him; it gives me a brak from the "helping" and "organizing."

  5. My husband has been in 5 Bishoprics. I think, after a while, I have grown to know that even though it seems like other people own him, there are still pieces of him that only you are privileged to know. He still would rather come home to a place where he knows he can let his guard down. It makes me happy to know he's happy.

  6. One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband was the incredible ability he had to communicate. He told me everything. I never had to wonder what he was thinking. When he was called as bishop, he stopped talking–at all–for about 6 months. It took him that long to be able to figure out how to keep private all that he had to and yet be able to counsel with me in what he could. It was a tough 6 months.

  7. I would love some advice from you ladies. Our bishopric will soon be changed over and I'm terrified that my husband will be called. My in-laws have felt like it is coming and so have I. But I am scared to share my husband. But for opposite reasons. I'm afraid the more people get to know my husband the less they'll like him. I think he has a hint of aspergers in that he just can't understand nonverbal cues and doesn't show a lot of empathy.

    Sadly I have felt the same about our current bishop. I would never want to change places with him and I deeply appreciate his service to the ward, but I would never have known his personality flaws if he hadn't been been called to this position.

    What advice do you have for me?

  8. T,
    When my husband was called as a bishop and our stake president asked me if I had questions I had one. "Every bishop I've ever had", I said,"has had at least one person (sometimes more) get angry at them or get disappointed with them and leave the church because of that. How do you handle the sorrow and anxiety from that?"

    My stake president's response was that such happens to every bishop, even the ones you might think are the kindest, best, wisest, super-human ones, and that we should not get discouraged when it happens when someone we love is that bishop.

    What I learned from my husband's subsequent years in bishoprics and stake presidencies: The people who understand charity will not hate your husband. As to people who will not love or understand or give the benefit of the doubt to your husband, that's between them and the Lord. You don't have to worry about that. You can hand that to God with hope and care. Keep the love and hope, confidence and benefit of the doubt alive in your own marriage relationship. Don't let your despair about his interpersonal skills add anxiety to it. The cultivating of that relationship is the one place where you have the most power to enable your husband to deal with the interpersonal challenges that are inimical to a bishopric calling.


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